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Arthur W. Wolde Sr. was an ambulance driver during World War II and drove ashore on Omaha Beach a week after D-Day.
DAILY Photo by Ronnie Thomas
Arthur W. Wolde Sr. was an ambulance driver during World War II and drove ashore on Omaha Beach a week after D-Day.

An interview by Hemingway
Harvest man recalls meeting
famous author during wartime

By Ronnie Thomas
DAILY Staff Writer

rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

A man standing in the road near a vehicle, wearing a cap and a trench coat motioned Pfc. Arthur W. Wolde Sr. of Harvest to pull over.

"I had no idea who he was, except that he was a civilian," Wolde recalls. "He stuck out his hand and said, 'I'm Ernest Hemingway. I'd like to know what happened back there, at the exchange.' "

It was July 9, 1944, during World War II. Wolde and his assistant driver, Ancel "Littleman" Lemons of Illinois, were returning to the 45th Evacuation Hospital at Lacambe, France, from German lines near Caumont.

Wolde and another driver, Pfc. Herman Yehle of Eureka, Calif., returned eight of 16 German nurses captured in the basement of a hospital at Cherbourg. Two other ambulances returned the first eight nurses in the group under a white flag a week earlier.

"They were given a choice of remaining with the Allies or going back," said Wolde, now 88. "They chose to rejoin their troops."

Wolde said Hemingway took notes as he told him the story:

"Four nurses got into the back of my ambulance. As we got closer to Caumont, an Army captain stopped us and leaped onto the runningboard," Wolde said. "I saluted him. He said, 'I'm Quentin Roosevelt,' and we shook hands. He said, 'This way, soldier,' and he pointed south.

"We hadn't gone far, when I pulled up. There were tank mines across the road that explode when any heavy vehicle strikes them. Roosevelt nonchalantly kicked them out of the way. My heart stopped.

"We reached a clearing in a field, where several American and German officers stood. The nurses got out and each one said, 'Heil.' And the officers repeated, 'Heil.' They did not give the customary Nazi salute and no one said Hitler. I thought that was strange."

Wolde said the next day, the story "appeared in newspapers all over the world." He pulled several clippings from his scrapbook about the incident. The articles mention him, Yehle and Roosevelt, a nephew of President Theodore Roosevelt.

One article had a byline, which was not Hemingway's. A photo of one of the nurses getting into Wolde's ambulance accompanied the article. Another article had no byline.

But Wolde is convinced Hemingway was the man to whom he spoke and that (Hemingway) had a role in some of the reporting because "so much in there is exactly what I told him. I didn't speak to anyone else."

One of the articles quoted Yehle saying, "Those Germans were armed to the teeth. But I felt a lot cleaner, because they looked like they hadn't had a bath since D-Day (June 6, 1944)."

Yehle also said he believed the officers and nurses didn't give the Nazi salute or say Hitler "because they had gotten tired of it."

According to Hemingway's biography, he returned to his home in Cuba the same year because "he had had enough of war."

But after that peaceful interlude south of Caumont, war went on for Wolde until the Army discharged him in October 1945. For the military record, Wolde drove Ambulance No. 11 onto Omaha Beach in Normandy a week after D-Day. For his satisfaction, he painted "Patchogue Kid" on both doors in white letters to represent the high school he attended in the Village of Patchogue on Long Island, N.Y.

He published his memoirs in a book titled "Ambulance No. 11." He will have it available at a book signing today at 3 p.m. and Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Von Braun Center as part of the 2006 Space and Missile Defense Conference.

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